So another new page for The Sheffield Environs Landscape Project is up, using a map, go and check it out ‘ShELP, another view from above‘.
Using Open Street Map (OSM) was an obvious choice, for the ethics behind open source software and the usage of the data, but it also lead me to a few thoughts about how Tim Ingold (2007) thinks about maps as I’m reading ‘Lines: A Brief History’ at the moment.
For Ingold the lines on a map create a network of points which the surveyor has created from their appropriaton of space as they transport themselves and their equipment from survey station to survey station. This creation of maps since the early modern period has distanced people from a thorough embedded knowledge of the world (ibid.: 80-89).
However, when creating the OSM map one wanders(wonders?) about the world as she/he goes. They are not transported along, point to point but move in a series of traces more akin to wayfaring. Through doing this they more fully inhabit their world as they may stop to look at something interesting or to speak to someone. Because this bodily gesture, movement, is automatically recorded on a GPS it frees the OSM creator to ‘walk, listen and feel as they go’ (ibid.: 78). The inaccuracy of a mapping level GPS comes in handy here, if you’d like to pop over the road to look in a shop window but are keen to create a representation of the street you’re on it doesn’t really matter as 10m here or there probably won’t matter, thus further emphasising the embodied manner of mapmaking with OSM.
This changes Ingold’s argument; since the final product of an OSM and, for example, a 1:50,000 urban OS map will be very similar can he make such judgements to how people ‘read’ a map? If the OSM creator is creating his meshwork of inhabited places why is that not what the map reader is digesting as they follow the map around? Surely they’ll not be blindly counting their steps in scale with the map, they’ll be looking and thinking about how the map relates to the place they’re in, the same way as the mapmaker when creating the OSM. Thus if the map is the same and the reader of the map uses it in a similar way, the method of creation is not as important as Ingold states; maps can be more than ‘points cutting across the world’.
Open Street Map available at http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Main_Page
Ingold, T. 2007. Lines: A Brief History. London: Routledge.